The e-Participation Day organized in Romania on May 7 was a national online event which brought together over 700 young citizens to learn about e-participation tools, but most importantly experience these tools first hand and practically.
While lots of local events were organized at the local level by libraries, schools and NGOs, two events happening simultaneously in two high schools in Romania, were the highlight of the e-Participation Day in Romania.
National College Emanuil Gojdu from Oradea, with support and coordination from EOS Foundation, organized a live meeting between 100 grade 12 students (aged 18+) and one of the most active MEPs of Romania – Mr. Siegfried Mureșan, one of the most active MEPs online in the social media channels. The students spent a productive and extremely interesting 2 hour session finding out about:
- What is the best type of communication with citizens when you are an MEP?
- What are the easiest, fastest and more productive ways to influence national and European policy?
- How important is it for an MEP to be in direct contact with citizens? Why is that helpful?
- Once a petition is submitted, what happens next?
- Which MEP is right for what kind of petition? Does it depend on the area of interest, e.g. education, environment, health, etc?
The dialogue was facilitated by Adrian and Maria Niță, coordinating teachers who were looking for an opportunity to engage their students directly with European politicians for a long time. Therefore May 7 was the perfect opportunity which allowed their students to experiment a live interaction with a Member of the European parliament. The technical skype session was set up courtesy of the European Parliament Technical and IT Division.
After the live session was over, the students continued with practical hands on experimentation of some of the most commonly known European e-Participation tools like SOLVIT and Your Voice in Europe (Vocea ta în Europa). The participants were truly surprised by the wealth of information available and the tools for interaction. They learned about the Committee of Regions and signed up to various RSS feeds and newsletters to continue their learning and understandings on how they can better interact with and participate in building a stronger Europe.
While the European dimension of the e-participation toold was very interesting, the students were introduced to one of the best known online petitions portal in Romania: http://www.petitieonline.net/petitii-online.html. This portal hosts any citizens petitions ever filed under it and provides easy petitioning step-by-step support to those who want to support a cause.
In parallel with the school in Oradea, same day, same time, National College Mircea cel Bătrân Râmnicu-Vâlcea, with support and coordination from Informatics teacher Miana Arișanu Lăculeanu, were having a slightly different but similarly interesting e-Participation day. A skype connection (Courtesy of Consultant DGITEC Mr. Lionel Houchart) was established with MEP Marian Jean Mureșan who provided students an overview about the importance of digital tols for distance interaction. A few of the European e-Participation tools were briefly presented and demonstrated, but since they require a lot of attention and understanding, the discussion shifted towards a more local discussion where students started to lobby MEP Marinescu on a local issue which they were trying to get to the bottom of, without success in the past.
A new longer term partnership was therefore established, with MEP Marinescu agreeing to guide the group of 60 students in their endeavor to bring about a positive change in their town.
Last, but not least, the Romanian e-Participation Day witnessed a special and pioneering event in Romania: the e-Participation of blind people and their opportunities of interaction to influence policy for their own communities. A select group of 10 blind people came together to discuss about their chance to participate in shaping better service for the community of visually impaired people. As one of the activities, the group learned to perform W3C audit checks based on this international standard and produced reports regarding the accessibility of the European tools for e-participation Your Voice in Europe and Solvit. The results of the accessibility audit were more than pleasing – the official accessibility checker did not find any mistakes or problems with the accessibility of these sites. However the Romanian petitions portal which was also audits, came up with hundreds of known and potential problems. The activities of this group were organized at EOS headquarters in Timișoara in the context of an ongoing project called An accessible web for all!
At the end of the activities the local coordinators were awarded a certificate of participation and support! A total number of 27 teachers, librarians and trainers supported our awareness raising campaign and helped raise the level of understanding of over 700 people regarding the tools for e-Participation and the importance to know that every citizen can have a voice in Europe.
As a successful ending to the campaign, EOS launched the competition related to My e-Participation Story! This was launched on the 7th of May in order to make as many citizens aware of the opportunity to openly participate. The invitation to participate in the contest was promoted on all the social media channels of EOS and cross-shared widely.